So Helen Masters of Ata Rangi dropped around last week, bringing with her a bagful of the latest releases. Never one to refuse an excuse to taste Ata Rangi with straight-talking Helen I naturally dived in, though sadly we there wasn’t much time to sit around and talk shit.
Typically smart, the only challenge with this lot was that they’d been open for 24 hours, and some bottles were looking a little oxidised (mainly the Crimson and the Celebre) as not all bottles had been kept in the fridge.
Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Helen puts 30% into large barrels, and 5% of the blend sees full skin contact and made ‘as an orange wine’. Tropical fruit scented, this has plenty of melon and no herbs in sight. Too ripe for that. Pure and clean palate has texture, but it’s just not that exciting. Quality mouthfeel though. Best drinking: 2016-2017. 17/20, 90/100. 13%. Would I buy it? A glass would do.
Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris 2015
‘Gris can be a boring variety’ according to Helen. 20% of this was barrel fermented and left on lees for three months. Just a little residual sugar to here for balance (which works). This smells of pear and a little honey an inviting form, the palate viscous and rich, with Packham pear ripeness. I see the sweetness here as a positive, the alcohol adding more texture and all without giving up too much acidity. It’s still chunky, but clean. Really quite clever! Much more interesting than the Sauv. Good. Best drinking: 2016-2018. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Ata Rangi Petrie Chardonnay 2014
Petrie comes from a cooler, more elevated vineyard about 20 minutes NE of Martinborough towards Masterton. Handpicked and whole bunch pressed, with cloudy juice going straight into barrel. Expressive and ripe, this picks up some of the ripe pear fruit richness of the Gris. Has a real viscosity too, though the finish is taut, citrussy, snappy. Limited malo? Acidity a great foil to that richness. Nice wine. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? I’d drink half a bottle – it’s tasty.
Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2014
So much more expansive than the Petrie! This feels more classic, weightier and more complex with a little more new oak (25% new vs 20% in Petrie) but also more driving through the finish. Acid profile is a little less sharp. Long! Like going from 1er to Grand Cru. Best drinking: 2016-2021. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? Yes.
Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2014
All destemmed. Young vines. This looked a little oxidised in context though plenty of red cherry underneath and light tannins. Just a dull edge though. UR. 14%.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2014
30% whole bunches this year, though it doesn’t stick out. Helen believes that the ’14 is more approachable as a young wine compared to the ’13, which she think will live for 20yrs+. Maroon with a little purple, this is immediately less about pure pretty red fruit, and more winey. The extra masculinity is more welcome, more whole bunch tannins too. Wonderful texture. It’s a big Pinot – with just a hint of bacon – but it seems to flow, and the alcohol doesn’t stick out. Significantly more impressive than the Crimson, and the finish is so even. Acidity is very much in balance. Really smart wine. Best drinking: 2016-2023. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%. Would I buy it? Yes I would.
Ata Ranga Juliet Syrah 2013
Just 1200L of this made made and a piddly 600L in ’15. Rare beast! From the Kahu vineyard that is ‘very old’ (for Martinborough). Bright purple maroon coloured, it’s interesting how Pinot like the nose is. Lithe and red fruited, there is some white pepper but it still seems stamped with red cherry bright fruit. Not masculine. Delicate and pretty. It seems an oddity – like it’s from somewhere that isn’t Martinborough. Tasty though. Best drinking: 2016-2026. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%. Would I buy it? I’d drink a full bottle. Circa $60 in NZ would be doable.
Ata Rangi Celebre 2013
55% Merlot, 35% Syrah (with some of the Martinborough mystery Seibel hybrid grape in the mix), Cab Sauv, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. 2yrs barrel then 1yr in bottle. Mid ruby, it’s a quite reticent beast despite the oxidation. Definitely long, the tannin astringency polarising perhaps but not a bad wine. Would be good to see another bottle. UR. 13%.